205 residents, 240 employees displaced as four nursing homes shut down

Crestview Care Center in Milford and the Utica Community Care Center in Utica will close their doors Nov. 21.

The facilities’ parent company, Azria Health, announced the changes Sept. 23, notifying employees and residents’ families that morning and sending a press release through the Nebraska Health Care Association that afternoon.

According to the press release, the closure will affect four skilled nursing centers in Nebraska: Crestview Care Center in Milford, the Utica Community Care Center, Blue Hill Care Center and Mory’s Haven in Columbus, all of which were acquired by Azria last week. Ownership went into effect at the Utica facility on Sept. 17, just six days before the announcement to close.

The four closures will collectively eliminate 205 state-licensed beds and put about 240 employees out of work.

The press release said the decision to close the facilities was one forced by “the facilities’ poor financial performance over recent years.”

“Unfortunately, Nebraska’s fiscal landscape doesn’t make it viable for many long-term care facilities to continue providing the high-quality care residents deserve. In this case, we had to make the incredibly difficult decision to close four buildings so that others are able to successfully stay open,” said Carrie Ramaekers, Regional Director of Operations for Azria Health. “Azria Health is committed to investing in the remaining buildings, staff, and those we serve in order to ensure long-term viability.”

The care centers were formerly operated by Five Star Quality Care Inc., with other locations in North Platte, Sutherland, Grand Island, Central City, Waverly, Ashland, Gretna and Omaha.

The closures come after 15 other nursing facilities have closed in Nebraska this year, including three in Crete, Fremont and West Point in August that displaced 140 employees. Those three were owned by Trillium Healthcare Group out of Bradenton, Florida.

“These closings follow an unfortunate trend in our state—a trend that should be highly concerning to all Nebraskans,” said Heath Boddy, president and CEO of the Nebraska Health Care Association.

“The amount that long-term care providers receive from Nebraska Medicaid is approximately $30 per person per day less than the average cost of providing care to Nebraskans who need it—a model that no business can sustain. I was pleased to learn that Azria Health would be operating more buildings in Nebraska because of my experience with the company and its team members in their current operations. They’ve shown they’re interested in improving quality and reinvesting in operations.”

Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership President Jonathan Jank said Sept. 23 that the organization will jump in to help those affected by the closures.

“The Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership is disappointed to hear about the closing of our senior care facilities in Milford and Utica,” Jank said. “We plan to come together quickly as an organization, along with our local communities, to help our displaced workers and also our displaced seniors and to make sure their needs are taken care of first and foremost.”

Milford Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Jordon Folkers echoed the same sentiment.

“It’s unfortunate and kind of sad to see a local company or business go out of business like that, especially one that provides care to seniors,” Folkers said.

He said the Milford chamber will focus on helping those employees and the care center residents and will put steps in place to find them safe places to go where they can get the care they need.

Jank said the SCCDP will work with the Nebraska Department of Labor, which has a rapid response team ready to help support displaced workers. It will also look to local and regional employers to help those workers find jobs quickly with the Nov. 21 closing date approaching.

For the displaced residents, Jank said Seward has a strong continuum of care and people who really care about the residents at local nursing facilities.

“We have a pretty tight senior care facility capacity, however, we will be reaching out to that group as well to see how we can best serve our seniors,” Jank said.

He said Seward County is finishing a housing study, which should give insight into what kind of facilities are needed for the county’s aging population.

Azria said in the press release that its team members are already assisting residents and family members to consider other skilled nursing options, and the company is working with team members to explore employment opportunities.

Those affected by the closures can call the SCCDP office at (402) 643-4189.

“Our organization is partnering with Sen. Mark Kolterman's office, local senior care providers, local community leaders and state agencies to reach out and care for the needs of displaced workers and residents in Seward County," Jank said. "This project will be a new priority for our organization. We will be collaborating with a number of state partners and community leaders to help our displaced workers and care facilities residents to make sure their needs are taken care of first.”

The SCCDP team met Sept. 24 with members from the Utica Commercial Club to discuss the impact of the closure on the Utica community. The SCCDP has been in contact with the Milford Chamber of Commerce and will work toward facilitating a coordinated community response.

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